Clemson Blue Cheese, once cured in Stumphouse Tunnel in Walhalla, SC, is an artisan cheese still made the old fashioned way, by hand. Once each hoop is ready it is scraped, cut and packaged by hand as well. If you are a lover of quality blue cheese this is certainly one you need to try, with a sharp, biting and tangy flavor that any blue cheese connoisseur would love.
Clemson Blue Cheese was once made on campus Clemson A&M College in Clemson, South Carolina (In 1964 the College was renamed Clemson University) and then transported to Walhalla, SC where Stumphouse Tunnel is located. The tunnel which is an abandoned effort by the Blue Ridge Railroad to be a major part of a line connecting the port of Charleston, SC with the Midwest began its construction in 1852. Due to financial trouble and the start of the Civil War the tunnel was never completed. Clemson College purchased the tunnel in 1951.
The name Stumphouse has many legends behind it, but the most popular is the story of Issaquena. Issaquena was a Creek Indian living among the Cherokee in the area. She fell in love with a man named David Francis, a silversmith who at the time lived near the town now known as Ninety-six, SC. The tribe she lived with was planning to attack where her lover lived, she raced to warn him, naming local landmarks along her way. She believed the distance she traveled was 96 miles, which is where the name of the town came from, in reality the distance is just 92 miles. She and her lover fled into the mountains to avoid the wrath of her betrayed tribe and hid inside of a hollow stump, hence the name Stumphouse Tunnel. When the Cherokee found her, she ran again and dove off the Issaquena Falls, which bear her name. The Cherokee believed her dead, but she survived and met up with her lover again in Alabama where they lived happily ever after.
In 1940 a Clemson professor realized the conditions inside the tunnel were ideal for curing Blue Cheese. The Clemson College Dairy Department began working on the cheese making and curing process and the first Clemson Blue Cheese was cured in the Tunnel in 1941. The start of WWII limited the beginning production of the cheese and in 1944 all production ended due to the shortage of available milk, which was needed for aviation cadets housed on campus. In 1953 with a replenished supply of milk and after Clemson College purchased the tunnel cheese production had begun again on an experimental basis.
In 1956 The Agricultural Department at Newman Hall was built with air-conditioned cheese rooms that were designed to replicate the conditions of the Tunnel and all cheese curing moved on campus by 1958 where it continues today. In 1998 Clemson introduced a new product to the Blue Cheese line, a salad dressing made from the famous blue cheese.
When coming to the upstate of South Carolina, I highly recommend coming to Clemson University and dropping by the East Side Food Court at the Hendrix Center to buy some Clemson Blue Cheese and dressing to carry home with you. While you are there why not visit the Tiger Grill in the food court to order a Buffalo Chicken Wrap to go. Then drive 30 miles to Walhalla, SC to visit Stumphouse Tunnel, sit at one of the picnic tables to enjoy fresh mountain air, beautiful scenery and your fresh made wrap with some Clemson Blue Cheese Dressing and then explore the tunnel where it all began.